The family dinner table is a place to be intentional to develop communication and people skills.
Dine together often. And as you do, use it as a time to continually assess communication skills.
In yesterday’s blog post I talked about equipping the kids with skills to help in situations where a group conversation may be dominated by one person, along with other various situations that involve them knowing how to quietly navigate the conversation so that all have a chance to speak and be heard. (Is that a major run-on sentence or what?)
However, there’s something more basic than that. It is extremely important that we take inventory of our own conversational skills and those of our children. The goal being to recognize and correct our own behavior that we may be blind to, and those rude, disrespectful or simply ignorant behaviors seen in our children that they could be trained on. You’ll see a world of a difference when you address these things. It does start with regularly eating together… as in all present at the same time, at the same location, spending time together sharing about your day and engaging in conversation.
Today’s blog post is about YOU. The next post is about your children. Ready?
One way to get a grasp on YOUR SOCIAL SKILLS at the table (or in group settings) is to simply ask a loved one for their insight. Tell your husband and/or kids that you would like their input on things you might be blind to when you are communicating in a group. “Go easy on me, please. Just share maybe one thing that I don’t realize I do when we’re eating together.” This can be painful, but truth-revealing. So, if you aren’t TRULY ready to hear, then you’re NOT ready to invite someone to speak into your life.
If this is the case, I politely, with a desire to see you recognize the damage you are unknowingly doing, say… shame on you. You are missing out on something so very valuable… blind spots being revealed. And, they’ll do nothing, but help you. Just by the very nature of you asking, receiving the info with grace and responding with “Thank you. I had no idea” and accepting ownership of what they’re saying, YOU ARE DOING MORE GOOD in your home than you might possibly be aware of. You are demonstrating a teachable heart. You are being a person – a wife, mom, friend – who is approachable. You are living out humility. You are creating a tone within your home that is SAFE, peaceful, and loving. That’s right. That’s why I said “shame on you.” If you are defensive, you just taught your husband or kids to NOT speak into your life, to NOT trust your next invitation to give input, and you have just simply communicated to them I AM RIGHT and I am not approachable. YOUR response is up to you, but your response does play a role in the communication within your home one way or another.
If you do allow someone to speak into your life, you are on the way to making changes that will create the conversations and communication you want in your home. Work on those things they reveal. Maybe it’s you talk too much, or you don’t let Dad finish his story. Maybe it’s that you don’t ever share below the surface level so conversations are shallow. Maybe there is no room for anyone’s opinion but your own. Maybe it’s that they feel you always correct them (“elbows off the table, sit up straight, chew with your mouth closed”…). Read that last line again. “They feel” that you correct them. Are you being defensive with me on a blog post? Are you saying to your computer screen, “Well, THOSE ARE important things. I need to correct them!”? I do agree with you. But, your kids just gave you VALUABLE INSIGHT into something that may be sending their hearts AWAY from you. Take heed. The WAY in which you communicate and the timing of it are what needs to change. They DO need your guidance in table manners. How about agreeing with them and saying, “Thanks. I had no idea that I was coming across like that. I do want you to have good manners, but I definitely want to enjoy conversing with everyone at the table and having fun family time while we eat together.” Maybe you can even say, “I’m so sorry. I am going to change that. Will you forgive me?” Then, most importantly… CHANGE!! They gave a part of their heart to you in their communication to you. CHANGE! Keep those lines of communication open! (yeehaw!)
Remember that GREAT SOCIAL SKILLS really boil down to YOU SHOWING INTEREST IN OTHERS. Take inventory. How well are you doing about including others in conversations, engaging communication with all parties involved, letting others talk, not interrupting or interjecting things that turn the conversation to you, communicating your thoughts kindly, calmly, respectfully, letting others share their thoughts and opinions, being positive, being an encourager to others, monitoring humor and its effects on others (and changing it if it is not funny or not received well), giving all a chance to speak and reply. Do you ask questions to hear the thoughts of others and listen fully to understand their perspective and then ask follow up questions that demonstrate you care and are listening vs thinking about the next question while they talk? Do you put people on edge? Do you sit there quietly and unengaged? Do others have to work hard to try to hear your thoughts? Can you share your heart and thoughts below the surface level?
Oh the things we can learn about ourselves while communicating at the dining table amongst those we love most.
Rhonda tryingtoraisethesechillinstoshowinterestinothers ellis
I think that it is important to stress to our middle school aged kids that burping your sisters name is really not a “skill”!
Glenn, thanks for that advice. I hope all hear you loud and clear. haha. I need to add that to a “train ahead” moment. 🙂